Sunday, January 4, 2009

Chemicals in pet food can lead to bad behavior, says top vet Part 1

Jonathan Owens of “The Independent UK” recently reported of British campaigners warning dog and cat owners of the health risks caused by additives in major pet food brands.
Millions of animal lovers are putting the health of their pets at risk by feeding them brand pet foods that are packed with additives and chemicals, according to a new, recently launched campaign.
Spearheaded by British TV vet Joe Inglis, the Campaign for Real Pet Food warns that the increasingly common behavioral issues in children, associated with some food additives, are also a problem with family pets.
Food allergies and intolerances are being cited as causes of bad behavior, such as hyperactivity, and illness in pets, warns the vet, whose concerns are backed by experts including clinical animal behaviorist Inga MacKellar, and dog behaviorist Carolyn Menteith.
Pet food manufacturers use general phrases, such as "meat and animal derivatives" and "EC permitted additives", in ingredient lists that hide the real content from pet owners.
Mr Inglis, who has his own line of natural pet food, said: "Some big brands are hoodwinking the public with the food that they put out and labeling in such a way so that pet owners cannot make an informed choice. Profits are being put before the welfare of pets and it's irresponsible to be using all these artificial additives in pet foods when there is so much anecdotal evidence that they cause harm."
The term "EC permitted additives" covers a list of about 4,000 chemicals. Some artificial colors have been shown to cause hyperactivity, while others have the potential to cause tumors, as have antioxidants including BHA.
Mr Inglis added: "Over the 12 years I've been a practicing vet, I have seen a substantial rise in cases of problems caused by poor diet, including allergies and intolerances, and behavioral issues linked to artificial additives in food."
The campaign has already secured the support of British celebrities including Dragon's Den entrepreneur Deborah Meaden. The businesswoman, who has 23 pets, including two dogs, said: "With so much emphasis on 'we are what we eat', it's about time we knew exactly what we were feeding our pets, too."
The British designer Bruce Oldfield, who cooks fresh cod, potatoes and vegetables daily for his dogs, also attacked pet food manufacturers. "I'm pretty careful what I put into my own body, so I think it's outrageous that the pet food industry should be allowed to act in a less than transparent way," he said.
A spokesperson for the British Pet Food Manufacturers' Association, however, said there was no evidence that pet food caused behavioral problems in animals.
"The use of additives in pet food is strictly regulated by the EU," he said. "The authorization process is rigorous and food/pet food additives are regularly reviewed to ensure safety. Consumers want reassurance on additives, but not full listing. There is no peer-reviewed scientific evidence currently available, or that we are aware of, to suggest a link between behavioral problems in pets and additives in pet food."
But in an attempt to prove the case against mass produced pet food containing additives, Mr Inglis plans to run a trial with a group of 30 hearing dogs for the deaf later this year. Half will be fed on a natural diet during their training, over several months, and half will be given food with additives. The dogs will be assessed for any differences in behavior and performance.
Already then, you may say now, but this only talks about pet food in England. How does all of that relate to us pet owners in the States?
Well, knowing that you are going to throw that argument at me, I proactively did some research on the issue here in the US. It sure didn’t come as a surprise to me that there are plenty of reasons why we should be concerned about exactly the same issue here in our home land. If one reads as many pet food labels as I do, too many of those questionable ingredients sound too familiar. Stay tuned for soon to follow part 2 on this topic when I am going to address this issue and talk about chemicals and additives in American pet food.

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